Wednesday, 23 January 2013

07:42 – I told Barbara last night that she shouldn’t worry about Colin and me at home. We can hold down the fort here if she wants to spend more time with her dad over the coming days, weeks, and possibly months. Today, she’s picking up her parents to drive them over to an audiologist appointment in High Point. They need to visit the audiologist regularly to get their hearing aids cleaned and checked. Her dad said he needed to keep this appointment. If Dutch is up to it, they may stop for dinner on the way home. If not, Barbara may have dinner with them at the retirement village. She’ll either bring me something for dinner or I’ll just make something for myself.

Work on science kits continues. Sales have slowed down a lot since the first half of this month, but we’re still doing well. So far this month, we’ve already sold more kits than we did in January, February, March, and April of 2012 combined. On that basis, I’m expecting things to really start getting busy starting in July. Between now and then, we’ll focus on getting chemical bottles ready, which is the real labor-intensive part. We can build kits pretty quickly on-the-fly if we don’t have to spend time labeling and filling bottles. With only a couple of exceptions, the chemicals we provide in the kits are stable indefinitely, which means we can make them up weeks to months ahead of time.

09:22 – Like “unionized”, “elegant” is a word that chemists use differently from most people. To a chemist, elegant means simple, with nothing wasted. I came across an excellent example of an elegant synthesis while reading Derek Lowe’s blog last week and checking one of the drugs he mentioned on Wikipedia. It’s metformin, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes.

“According to the procedure described in the 1975 Aron patent, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia, equimolar amounts of dimethylamine and 2-cyanoguanidine are dissolved in toluene with cooling to make a concentrated solution, and an equimolar amount of hydrogen chloride is slowly added. The mixture begins to boil on its own, and after cooling, metformin hydrochloride precipitates with a 96% yield.”

Wow. That is truly elegant. Simple, and nothing wasted. A 96%(!) yield, and the stuff just falls out of solution. That’s a synthesis that will warm the cockles of the heart of any synthetic chemist, let alone the chemical engineer who’s responsible for upscaling a laboratory-level synthesis to an industrial-level synthesis.